Pearls Before Swine, Balaklava

Johnny Black

By Johnny Black

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Pearls Before Swine founder Tom Rapp's earliest claim to fame, that he once defeated Bob Dylan in a talent contest, makes perfect sense. Despite his prominent lisp, Rapp boasted a more conventionally musical voice than the young Bobster and, although both often penned equally impenetrable lyrics, Rapp floated his on statelier melodies than Dylan favoured.

Unjustly overlooked second album from Florida’s acid-folk originators

Justly feted as the inventors of acid-folk, Pearls Before Swine was essentially a vehicle for Rapp's songs. Formed in Melbourne, Florida, in 1965, they released their cult debut album One Nation Underground in 1967 on New York's hip ESP Disk label, best-remembered now as home to the Fugs. One Nation Underground was a mite too derivative (of Dylan, Leonard Cohen, even Country Joe and the Fish) to be totally convincing, but Balaklava found Rapp powerfully asserting his own identity. "Translucent Carriages," even now, sounds like something that has found its way back from the land of the dead, complete with ominous whisperings and sounds of fearful breaths being drawn.

During the ethereal "I Saw The World," a soaring symphony orchestra duets with an Al Kooper-like organist while sound effects of waves, bells and wind chimes provide a swirling ambient background. If there's ever been another album like this, before or since, I haven't heard it.